The Kmart Cubby Hen House Hack!
Updated: Feb 15, 2020
So, who doesn't dream of having beautiful fluffy chickens as pets? They are delightful little creatures, and as such, delightful creatures deserve a delightful home. You won't easily find one much cuter than this! So below is a guide to building the cutest little chicken coop around for your backyard chickens.
Ok let's get started!
First, of course you'll need the Wooden Cubby House from Kmart. Currently it's $199 and can be found here:
It was tough to get the flatpacked box in the car (we had a terrific time trying) and in the end had to cut open the box in the loading dock and put all the bits in creative locations throughout the car. Which really wasn't too much of a problem in the end, but be forewarned this cubby will have a hard time fitting into a smaller sized car.
I won't go through the setup of the cubby itself as it's really straight forward and there's instructions in the box, and took me about an hour on my own with a power drill. Handy Tip: If you have one, a power drill will help speed things up, but if you've got the patience, it can be done with just a screw driver. In the end you'll end up with something like this:
I knew I wanted a floor on it, and because we're on a bit of a hill I wanted to have a level base for it to sit on. Depending on where you live, this will also help keep the snakes and vermin out, and could just as easily be avairy wire stapled underneath. (or an old pallet?) For me, I had some old leftover plywood, and that's what I've essentially used for all of the wooden parts attached to the cubby. I sat the Cubby on it (it's very easy to move with two people, it's pretty light) and measured out how much floor I'd need, then cut along the line with a circular saw.
It was a bit awkward trying to figure out the best way to attach the floor to the cubby, and in the end seeing as though I had some leftover bracket things I impulse bought at Aldi a few years ago, I decided it would be easiest to use a few of those. They just attach with a couple of small screws. To avoid unnecessary pokie bits, try and pick screws that aren't going to protrude through the wall on the outside. FYI because I was always planning on having the floor on a level surface underneath, these screws didn't really need to do much other than hold the floor in place and aren't meant to support the floor if it's raised off the ground without anything underneath it. Also, I had to contort into some pretty interesting shapes in order to reach in and screw these brackets on, it'd be a dream for tiny people though.
Similar to the floor, I cut a piece of plywood for the back window, after measuring it with a measuring tape. It took a couple of goes to get it to fit right, but you're better off cutting too little than too much. There's a handy little nook in the window as if it's made for a cover to go there. To whoever the genius was that designed these nooks around the openings at Kmart, thanks!
I just used two of those little screws again to keep it in place. I wasn't sure if I wanted this to be a latched window later on (would just need to add two hinges on the side and a latch).
The view from the inside. See how the recessed nook bit lets it sit in there really snug? It's like it was made to be hacked! Genius.
Next is the fun part!
For the nesting boxes, the side windows are both the same size. I only needed two nesting boxes, but you could easily duplicate this step for all of the windows if you wanted to. (obviously with different measurements for the back window).
For someone who isn't used to cutting and measuring things, the nesting box could seem a little daunting. Honestly it's very simple. I googled to see if there was a standard nesting box size and couldn't really find anything definitive so I just winged it. I knew they were taller at the entrance and just made it angle down a bit. I measured the nesting box to start roughly halfway down the window, I chose a start point of 320mm from the top of the window for those playing along at home.
The rough window dimensions are: Height: 650mm
Feel free to pick the dimensions that work for you if you want them taller or with a steeper roof pitch, but the nesting box dimensions I made are as follows below:
Start by measuring a 300mm piece along the bottom edge, then do the same halfway up the board, and again at the end. Mark with a pencil. Using something straight as a guide, draw between the lines you measured so you have a straight line all the way up. Then measure 250mm up on the righthand side and mark with a pencil. Then 320mm up on the left. Using something straight to assist, draw a line from the 320mm mark down to the 250mm mark. Using a circular saw (or something similar) cut the entire board off, all the way up past the dotted line section in the picture above. Then cut the angled line on your now smaller piece.
Depending on the size of your plywood (or whatever you're using) You might just need to trim a little off the offcut to make your second piece, but essentially you need three of those pieces outlined in the image above.
You'll need to cut a back piece at 250mm high, 480mm wide.
A floor roughly 300mm by 480mm.
and the lid is 345mm long by 480mm wide.
Then predrill holes and either nail or screw them together. I used screws.
Start with one of the corners and then add the others in, with the middle piece measured to be in the center.
At this point after you've attached the base board, you can move it to the cubby.
I attached it by screwing down into the solid wood on the sill. Try and get those directly in the center of the sill for maximum hold (so it goes into the two pieces of wood underneath instead of just the top one). I also put screws in the sides up near the top to hold it in place.
Next, roughly position the hinges where you'd like them, and attach the lid. Easy Peasy!
I used one of the offcuts of ply to cover the top section of the window, just held on by the same little screws at the top. Though alternatively you could use straight brackets, which is something I'll add later too I think.
Voila! It's pretty much done!
Next, we stapled some wire from the inside over both of the top windows. This was so it doesn't get too hot inside and can let the hot air out, while still keeping the chooks safe from snakes (we get a lot of pythons here). I just cut some aviary wire to size, at first with tin snips and then with an angle grinder because it was a bit tedious by hand and with a cheap staple gun, stapled it on from the inside. The timber is really soft, so staples are perfect.
You can also see the little latch I added to the top of the door. This took all of 2 minutes, and was as many dollars. You'll definitely want one of these as there isn't anything built in to keep the door closed.
Next it was time to add the window "glass". I searched everywhere for firm, clear plastic that didn't cost the earth and was shocked at how hard it was to find. I went to Bunnings and was about to buy this really expensive stuff that seemed to be the only thing similar to what I was after, when I stumbled upon this much cheaper, double walled perspex. It's very light and won't win any strength contests, but ended up being the perfect thickness to fit into the built-in window recess in the door (thanks again Kmart design person). From memory it was something like $12 per sheet, I only needed one sheet with plenty left over.
I literally cut it with scissors after marking out the size with a pen, and gently used four of those little screws again to hold it in place.
Fun tip: In hindsight, I would've painted the cubby first before this step. But if you use screws you can always take them off again before you paint. We were going away for a couple of days and had just been generously gifted two lovely hens, so I needed to get it to a point where it could safely hold them in while they acclimatised.
Same for the cute lil' windows.
That's pretty much it for the main structure!
Next was the painting.
Smart tip: we didn't use a spray gun. Use a spray gun. I hear it's much, much faster. haha...
I just bought the cheapest, white outdoor paint that Bunnings had. Somewhere around the $30 mark along with a couple of their cheapest brushes.
I'll do another post on the Cubby house and Nature Play Monkey bars in the background. Stay tuned!
Note: I'd stapled some aviary wire to the open window while we waited for the run to arrive.
and... another post on why Paper Daisies are my favourite flower. Coming soon! I'm a bit mad for them. Nothing eats them, they last for months... the list goes on!
Feathered friends starting to feel at home.
In fact... the entire neighbourhood is moving in!
Ok! Back to work, the run arrived.
Honestly, I thought about making the run section from scratch, but after pricing up all the bits decided I'd prefer to buy one. It was pretty pricey at $179, but very clean, straightforward and easy to put together. I bought this one:
However if you wanted to make your own from scratch, the dimensions are here:
Run size: 203(L)x98(W)x110(H)cmDoor size: 101(H)x44(W)cm
I dug out a level base for it. Keep in mind this particular run is 110cm tall. So it won't fit under the cubby eaves unless it's either dug down a little bit or the cubby is raised a little bit on bricks or something similar.
Lifted the run in. It's super lightweight, but it's a bit awkward to move because of it's size. It definitely helps to have another person with you to help get it in the right position.
That's pretty much it!
I cut out a hole for the window in the aviary wire on the run, making sure to fold over the sharp bits of wire. Added some little Kmart flags my kids no longer wanted and planted a bunch of Rosemary, Lavender and Daisy cuttings all around it. Added in a plank for a ramp with aviary wire stapled to it for a bit of grip.
Note: Things I'm currently adding; interior perches (out of a couple of fallen gumtree branches) and some form of flower or plant in the window boxes that the Pademelons won't eat :)
If you've made it this far, thanks! and please consider subscribing for similar posts to this one. Officially this is my first ever blog post (I've taken over my wife's old blog), and I've got a whole bunch of hacks and DIY projects I've documented that I can't wait to share with you.